Stingray Things that Sting

Stamps

All you want to know!

How stamps are made?

The fascinating step-by-step process of stamp production.

In Australia, all stamps are issued by Australia Post, which also produces stamps for Christmas Island, the Cocos (Keeling) Islands and the Australian Antarctic Territory. Many other stamp-related products are also produced.

Making a stamp usually takes about two years. Researchers, illustrators, photographers, designers, printers and marketers are all involved in taking a stamp through the process of research, illustration, design, printing and preparing them for sale.

  • Research

    Before a stamp can be created the theme must be researched and the number of stamps to be printed must be decided.

  • Illustration and design

    Would you believe that about one billion stamps are printed in Australia every year?
    Stamp designs are created in a variety of ways. Graphic designers, artists or photographers may be asked to produce new images for stamps or existing images from the collections of galleries, museums or libraries might be used. Each finished stamp must include the word "Australia" and the price of the stamp. Not every drawing or photograph will make a good stamp. Producing designs that work at such a small size is a challenge.

    The stamp designer also needs to include the year of issue on the stamp, small enough not to interfere with the design, but large enough to read. Why not use a magnifying glass to try and find the date on your stamps?

    Australia Post has only been putting the year on stamps since 1989. Can you find an Australian stamp that does not have a year on it?

    After the stamps have been designed they can then be printed.

    Play the "How stamps are made" video at the bottom of the page to see how stamps are printed and packaged for sale.

  • Printing

    CMYK animation

    How stamps are printed | CMYK animation

    How stamps are printed | Play Video

    Play the "How stamps are printed - CMYK Animation video at the bottom of the page to see how stamps are printed.

    Australian stamps are printed using a process called offset lithography. Offset printing is fast and ideal when large quantities of printed items are needed.

    Our stamps are colourful, but, believe it or not, most of them are printed using just four coloured inks: cyan (bright blue), magenta (pink), yellow and black!

    When different percentages of each colour are combined, they produce the huge range of colours we see on our stamps. If you look closely at a stamp that has been printed using this four colour process, you can see that the image is made up of a pattern of tiny coloured dots.

  • We want proof

    The first few sheets to be printed are called "proofs". The proofs are inspected closely for any errors or colour variations before the final printing begins. If there are any faulty sheets they are destroyed.

  • Invisible ink

    Part of every stamp is invisible to our eyes and can only be seen by Australia Post's sorting machines. A special phosphorescent coating on each stamp only shows up under an ultraviolet light. This light is what the sorting machine uses to position the stamp for cancellation (postmarking) when a letter is sorted for delivery.

  • Lick or stick

    Stamps can be printed on gummed paper that you have to lick or dampen before it will stick to an envelope, or on self-adhesive paper which can be stuck straight on to an envelope.

  • Perforations

    The large sheets of stamps are then perforated for easy separation. Perforation is achieved by punching small holes between the stamps using hard steel pins called "combs". Self-adhesive stamps are made to peel off a backing sheet but they still have the same perforated appearance.

Check this out next time you purchase a book of stamps!

How Stamps are made

How stamps are made

How stamps are made | Play Video

Play the video (Flash, 14.2mb) to see how stamps are printed and packaged for sale.

CMYK Animation

How stamps are printed | CMYK animation

How stamps are printed | Play Video

Watch how the four colours of stamps come together before your eyes!